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Cafe Claudio, Sebastopol

Where Gracious Meets Delicious

CoqLeft: Le Coq, by Hannah Rose

"If someone asks you when we close, Christina," the impossibly perfect Italian chef said quietly to his new hostess, "tell them, 'When people stop coming.'"

We were dining at a two top near the counter in the cafe feeling as giddy as newlyweds and trying to take everything in.

Reviewing new restaurants is fun and caution had kept me away too long.

Cafe Claudio recently experienced a transformation from glare to soft intimacy with its new owners and an opera held itself at bay in the background low enough for meaningful conversation.

From the moment we walked into the quaint cafe, we were pampered with attention. A coat was taken, water poured and menus were placed in front of us.

"Everything looks delightful," my date said while looking through the choices.

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The waitress, a bright, attractive young lady who had only recently moved to west county from the City, came to our table. You could tell she loved working there. A smile controlled her lips.

We almost lost our resolve when she recited the specials (half a baked chicken, my god) but we held to our original choices.

"I'll have the Linguini Genovese with half a Caesar's salad," my wife said. The entre was her favorite. I selected the Veal Claudio and a half Caesar also. At home, I'm known as, "the Copycat."

"You know, you'll save a dollar if you order the whole salad and I divide it up for you," our waitress said as she took our order. Magnificent! Radiant and considerate are two qualities I adore in staff.

Excitement gave way to anticipation as the lovely lady across from me sipped her Pinot. Our salads came and conquered us.

When our meals arrived, we moved from anticipation to fine dining as Carolyn's linguini brought silence to her for a full five minutes. It was a new record discounting the rare occasion when she is miffed at me.

I'm not going to describe the anguish of my delight as I sampled the veal.

Today's chefs often parcel out their cuisine in gram-sized mini-bites. (I like to refer to this as "French-sized.") Not so, Cafe Claudio. Our meals were easily enough for an encore the next day and we made it so.

Dessert, gelato with fresh strawberries and a chocolate sauce, came to us in a bowl. It was equally generous. I had vowed to eschew having anything past the veal so I could continue to remember its perfect taste and texture but the presence of the gelato broke me down.

It was ice-cream style and I couldn't help whispering between bites, "It's almost better than Clover."

"We'll be back," my date confirmed as we left.

All I could think of was, "Over and over and over again."

Cafe Claudio
9890 Bodega Highway
Sebastopol, California 95472
(707) 861-9547

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